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Camelina: The Plant That Powered KLM's First Biofuel Plane


Aircrafts are one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. There are various new technologies and different developments ongoing in order to reduce the pollution of planes at this moment but none has yet a great impact in real life. Even though most of the technologies developed are safe, no company wants to damage their image in case of a failure.

Even though Virgin Atlantic has already made demonstration flights in the US using biofuels, no other company has made any steps towards alternative power sources until now. To prove that there is no risk in using a green fuel, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from Europe also made their first flight with a  Boeing 747 that had one of the engines running 50% on biokerosene and the other 50% with normal jet fuel. The plane had 40 passengers on board and flew about 1 hour circling the Netherlands.

The biokerosene was obtained from camelina oil using a process developed in 2007 by a Honeywell subsidiary called UOP, and which was working under the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The role of UOP in this contract was to obtain a renewable military jet fuel for the U.S. military. The process is used today by refinery to produce transportation fuel and is actually based on hydroprocessing technology: hydrogen is added to remove oxygen from natural oils produced from camelina, jastropha and algae. The green jet fuel is mixed with petroleum-based fuel, so that no changes to the aircraft are needed. Also the specifications of the fuel are almost the same as the normal jet fuel’s: freezing point at -47°C and flash point at 38°C.

Camelina is a plant that is able to grow in harsh conditions where food crops cannot, so it will not compete with them for land: “The food chain may not be jeopardized, and production of biokerosene should not go hand in hand with deforestation or excessive water consumption. The conservation of biodiversity is, of course, also a precondition. Our cooperation with WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) is both important and inspirational,” said KLM President and CEO Peter Hartman.

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  1. Camelina is as expensive as soy. The problem is the airlines “DO NOT” want Boeing involved in brokering fuel. They have enough problems building aircraft.


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